Baptist Health rolls out renderings of new cancer center

Baptist Health rolls out renderings of new cancer center
Rendering of the Palm Avenue entrance to the new Baptist MD Anderson Hospital, slated to be built on two city blocks in San Marco covering the area from Gary Street to Children’s Way and from Palm Avenue to San Marco Boulevard.

Nearly a year after announcing a partnership with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baptist Health officials have rolled out renderings for a towering new cancer center to be built in North San Marco, which they say will offer patients the best state-of-the-art cancer care in the country.

In a public meeting sponsored by the San Marco Preservation Society April 4, officials from Baptist Health shared a video of their plans for the new Baptist MD Anderson Cancer facility slated for land bordered by Gary Street, Children’s Way, Palm Avenue and San Marco Boulevard. Designed by HKS Architects and Freeman White, a subsidiary of the Haskell Company, the massive glass-walled outpatient facility will encompass 250,000 square feet of clinical, administrative and patient space as well as a 600-car garage.

Final plans for the new outpatient facility will be presented to the Land Use and Zoning Committee Tuesday, May 3. The City Council will consider approving the proposal during its upcoming meeting, Tuesday, May 10. Once the plan is approved, Baptist Health expects to break ground in late summer and open the new facility in early 2018.

Representing Baptist Health at the meeting were John Wilbanks, executive vice president and chief operating officer; Scott Wooten, senior vice president and chief financial officer; Keith Tickell, vice president of Strategic Assets/Real Estate; Nicole Thomas, senior vice president of Specialty Services; Audrey Moran, senior vice president of Social Responsibility and Community Advocacy; and Melanie Husk, senior vice president of marketing and communications.

Also representing the project were Frank Brooks, senior advisor and past chief executive officer of Freeman White, Ray Spofford of England, Thims & Miller, Inc., Bill Schilling of Kimley-Horn and Associates, and Staci M. Rewis, attorney at law, Gunster Law Firm.

In October 2015, Baptist Health began a partnership with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston, opening a version of the top Texas facility in its existing Outpatient Center on San Marco Boulevard. By building a new facility for the Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center across from its present location on San Marco Boulevard, Baptist Health aims to become the Southeastern region’s primary destination for cancer treatment, drawing patients from throughout the world, said Thomas. By replicating the model of MD Anderson’s flagship hospital in Texas, “patients will be able to get new treatment options without going to Houston,” Thomas said.

The new facility will house all the outpatient services a cancer patient needs including clinical oncology, radiology, imaging, infusion, research, physician offices and support services such as nutrition, care coordination, and genetic counseling. Hospital care and surgical operations, if needed, will be provided by the nearby Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville on the Southbank.

“The plaza will be turned toward the community and doesn’t enter into the building. It’s the hospital’s gift to the community.” — Frank Brooks, CEO Freeman White

Narrating a virtual video rendering, Brooks, a Freeman White senior architectural advisor on the project, took a group of more than 50 local residents on a tour of the towering glass structure and beautifully landscaped campus.

The main entrance to the facility will look out onto Palm Avenue, across the street from Nemours Children’s Specialty Care. A glass pavilion entrance will be at street level and allow visitors to look into an open-air courtyard and garden inside. Everything about the building is designed to take advantage of natural light and an integration with nature, Brooks said.

The building will be stepped so that the tallest portion is in the center of the development with the portions closer to the street lower so they can be meticulously landscaped, visually interesting, and pedestrian-friendly, Brooks said. “The building is focused on views of Jacksonville,” Brooks said. “From it you will be able to look out on the river.”

On the east side of the new campus, running parallel with San Marco Boulevard, will be a wide pedestrian walkway, incorporating the same brick sidewalk pattern and street lamps as the rest of San Marco. The average ground floor setback from the city’s right of way will be 30 feet, he said.

“The facility aims to fit into the community,” Brooks said. “We have taken many steps to ensure it is friendly to the environment.”

Ground floor walls of the center along San Marco Boulevard will be at least two stories and in some places as high as 28 feet, providing a barrier between the street and the hospital’s linear accelerators. The exterior will be architecturally pleasing, incorporating glass, artwork and plantings. In the center of the property will be a glass-walled tower, which at its tallest may extend up to 12 stories. Specifics about the height of the towers are still in the design process and a final decision has yet to be made, Brooks said.

The part of the building facing the Overland Expressway and Gary Avenue will comprise a four-story, 600-car garage, which will overlap the cancer center and be used exclusively by patients and their families as well as the doctors who serve them. The garage will be screened so passersby will not be able to see the cars. Access to the garage will be available from both Palm Avenue and Gary Street, and families dropping off patients at the Palm Street entrance can swing immediately into the garage without getting back onto the street, Brooks said. Valet parking will also be available on site.

Additional parking for staff will be available off Nira Street and Flagler Avenue in a four-deck parking garage Baptist intends to build in the space where surface lot D currently exists. Baptist intends to keep a buffer of trees between the parking area and Nira Street, Brooks said.

A triangular parcel on Nira Street between Flagler Avenue and the railroad tracks, which currently accommodates overflow parking, will be spiffed up into an attractive greenspace, said  Tickell. “We will landscape it, but not put benches there. We want to beautify it without turning it into a residence,” he said.

An elegant sky-bridge spanning the distance between the current Baptist MD Anderson Center and the new facility will be built to ensure pedestrian safety, Brooks said. “The bridge will be primarily glass and will glow at night,” Brooks said. “It will be of a neutral style linking the old and the new.”

A greenspace is planned for the corner of Gary Street and San Marco Boulevard that will soften the space and offer a “beautiful gateway” into San Marco Village from I-95, he said.

Perhaps the most interesting feature for San Marco residents will lie on the opposite corner, where Children’s Way and San Marco intersect. In that space, Baptist plans to build a large pedestrian plaza with shade trees for the community to enjoy.

“The facility aims to fit into the community. We have taken many steps to ensure it is friendly to the environment.” — Frank Brooks, CEO Freeman White

“The plaza will be turned toward the community and doesn’t enter into the building,” Brooks said. “It’s the hospital’s gift to the community.” Baptist deliberately did not title the land to the city so that it can provide additional security in the area as well as use the space for “special occasions,” said Wooten.

The plaza will consume the entire footprint of the existing warehouse, which currently sits across from the Kitchen on San Marco and will tie into an eight-foot-wide multi-use bike and pedestrian path, which will run alongside the Baptist property from Palm Avenue to the railroad tracks, which intersect with Nira Street, Brooks said.

“The plaza will be a great way-station along the multi-use path, which will connect with King Street and The District,” he said.

The multi-use path will be part of a greater Southbank plan to provide a bicycle and pedestrian loop connecting the Southbank Riverwalk with The District-Life Well Lived, as well as a multi-use bridge across the St. Johns River adjacent to the Fuller Warren Bridge, which the Florida Department of Transportation intends to build in a few years. To make access to Baptist MD Anderson’s portion of the loop and FDOT’s multi-use path across the river safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, Nemours Children’s Specialty Care has ceded an easement behind its building so the two paths can be connected.

Adjacent to the multi-use path on Children’s Way will be a loading/service area, which will be screened with a wall and vegetation so there will be “no visual impact,” said Brooks. Also on that side of the property will be some surface parking, which will be screened with landscaping, he said.

Wooten projected Baptist MD Anderson will employ more than 600 “team members” over the next five years, each with average wage and benefits in excess of $100,000 per year. Most of the new employees will be physicians and highly trained staff, he said.

At this time, Baptist Health has no plans to build hotel accommodations for cancer patients and their families coming to the center from out of town, he said.

“This is outstanding,” said one long-time San Marco resident as the meeting closed. “We need more new beautiful buildings like this in Jacksonville.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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